My walk with World Vision to give water to the thirsty: Part 2

Today’s post -- the second of a two-part series -- comes to us from Dr. Greg Allgood, founder and director of the Children’s Safe Drinking Water (CSDW) program at Procter & Gamble.

Miss the first post? Check it out here!

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While P&G is focused on providing clean water through our partnership with World Vision, we're participating in a much broader development effort. Having spent more than two decades in public health, I know that addressing the complex issue of poverty with a comprehensive, community-based approach like that of World Vision can sustainably improve lives.

A few years after my visit to Malawi, once the CSDW program was established, I witnessed again the importance of the deep and trusted relationships developed by World Vision on the banks of a dirty river in Zimbabwe that was the only source of water for a community. This was during the devastating cholera outbreak that killed more than 3,000 people and made tens of thousands sick. Through a World Vision program, I met Admire Chiweshe, a nurse who worked around the clock for days, treating people who were suffering and dying from cholera.

It was an emotional trip to spend time with people who had suffered from cholera and with families who had lost loved ones to this plague. The people told us about the critical role that safe drinking water could play in preventing cholera, and my admiration for World Vision’s work and their community partners grew even deeper. Responding to cholera outbreaks, floods, drought, and other emergencies is an area where World Vision and P&G are now partnering to save a lot of lives. Most recently, we’re reaching millions impacted by the drought and food crisis in West Africa.

As the years progressed in our partnership with World Vision, we began working together in more countries and have now provided nearly 1 billion liters of clean drinking water together.

One of the most satisfying parts of our collaboration is the comprehensive approach that World Vision takes with development. Not only does World Vision use the P&G packets to provide clean water; they also help to address all the other major needs of the community and gradually work with the community so they can lift themselves out of poverty.

This almost always involves improving water, sanitation, and hygiene -- because these are such a huge need -- as well as improving education, empowering women and girls, expanding economic opportunities, improving agriculture practices so people have nutritious foods, and responding to the AIDS pandemic.

So our P&G packets have become one tool in the arsenal that World Vision uses for development. Because World Vision has a sustained presence in communities, I was able to visit these communities and see the visible and lasting impact that World Vision’s programs have over time.

(Photo: Procter & Gamble)

One memorable visit was in coastal Kenya, where I visited households that were receiving the P&G water purification packets for the first time. I remember very well meeting a woman named Zeinab, who was suffering from AIDS and was literally on her death bed. She was so thin and frail that we thought that she might pass away within a few days.

I was able to visit this same area six months later and happened to be at a clinic that World Vision helps support when Zeinab approached us.

I felt like I was meeting Lazarus. Not only was Zeinab alive, she was thriving. I’ll never forget her radiant smile. She wanted to thank us for saving her life.

Once she had clean water, she was able to regain her health and recover from persistent and severe diarrhea that parasites in her drinking water had caused. Once healthy, she was able to get a job, and her children were able to go back to school instead of spending their time taking care of her and the household.

Since our memorable visit with Zeinab, we’ve learned even more about the absolutely essential role of purified water in preventing opportunistic infections among people living with HIV. It’s literally a life-saver, and through programs in many countries, we’re now reaching millions of people with HIV and AIDS.

Finally, through discussions with Rich Stearns, the CEO of World Vision, and his leadership team, we’ve agreed to an innovative approach for using the P&G water purification packets as a springboard to a more sustainable water solution.

World Vision has an impressive campaign to reach millions of people with sustainable water, sanitation, and hygiene in 10 African countries with the greatest needs. While more sustained water infrastructure is being built in cooperation with these communities, we’ll use the P&G packets as an interim solution to address their immediate needs for clean water. We believe that the investment by communities in the time and effort to use the packets will help prepare them for the ongoing investment needed to ensure sustainability of their water infrastructure.

At P&G, we have an audacious goal to save one life every hour in the developing world by 2020, by providing 2 billion liters of clean drinking water every year with the P&G packets. Our partnership with World Vision is mission-critical to this success. And it gives me great pride to know that our focused goal at P&G will be part of an even bigger effort by World Vision to provide sustainable water at scale for millions of people.

It’s a partnership that I know would make P&G founders James Gamble and William Procter very happy.

Contribute to World Vision's Clean Water Fund today! Your one-time gift or monthly contribution will help save children from the suffering caused by parasites, worms, dysentery, and diarrhea. Plus, they’ll be able to attend school, because they won’t have to spend their days sick in bed or walking long distances to collect water that may not even be safe to consume.

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